This Week In AFLCMC History - July 3 - 9, 2023

  • Published
  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office
3 Jul 1953 (Wright-Patterson AFB)

Today, 70 years ago, the five pictured individuals  were awarded seven medals at Wright-Patterson AFB. Three of the five—Capt Raymond J. Etcheto, TSgt Robert F. Lubic and Airman Allan Rhodes —were awarded Distinguished Flying Crosses for actions during the Korean War. All three DFC awardees were associated with B-26 Invaders: Etcheto flew one, Lubic was a gunner on one, and Rhodes was an engineer on one. Maj Gen William F. McKee  shakes hands with Army Reserve Lt Richard L. Trask. Trask was awarded a bronze star for his work with the American Graves Registration Service Group.

4 Jul 1952 (Mobility & Training Aircraft Dir./Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Dir.)

During the Cold War, the USAF sought opportunities to showcase its strength by projecting airpower around the world both quickly and at scale. One of the more dramatic instances of this occurred under “Operation Fox Peter One,” where the 31st Fighter Wing was ordered on short notice to move its entire operational fighter fleet from Turner AFB, GA, to Misawa AB, Japan. All 60 of the wing’s F-84 Thunderjets were prepped for the flight across the Pacific, and the mission began on Jul 4, 1952. Aerial refueling took place over Texas and then, after a touch-down in California, again over the Pacific. One airplane was lost in the exercise, killing pilot Lt Col Elmer G. Da-Rosa; but the operation was otherwise a success. It represented, as the 31 FW History Office reported it, “the first mass movement of jet fighters across the Pacific Ocean, the first mass midair refueling movement of jet fighters, the longest mass movement of a complete jet fighter wing by air, and the longest mass nonstop over-water flight by jet fighters.” 

5 Jul 1985 (Hanscom AFB/Digital Dir.)

Hanscom AFB’s Electronic Systems Division awarded six contracts worth $12.5 million for studies into the possible architecture of a “Battle Management/Command, Control, and Communications” (or BM/C3) program, which was then being proposed as one part of the USAF’s role in President Reagan’s “Strategic Defense Initiative” (SDI). The SDI, announced in 1983 and panned in the media as the “Star Wars program,” was dreamt up as a space-based defense system to protect the U.S. from nuclear missiles at the height of the Cold War. Ultimately, it was cancelled in 1993—deemed too far out of reach (and expensive) for then available technologies. The BM/C3 part of the program  would have been in charge of monitoring and controlling activities within the system, such as by assigning targets to planned weapon systems (e.g., space-based interceptors or lasers) designed to neutralize enemy missiles.

6 Jul 1934 (Hill AFB)

On this date, the Air Corps’s Materiel Division (forerunner to today’s Air Force Materiel Command) at Wright Field, Ohio, recommended that an air depot—then referred to as the prospective “Rocky Mountain Air Depot”—be built in the area of what would become Hill AFB. The recommendation followed the Air Corps’s successful use earlier in the year of the area as a temporary air depot for airmail operations. The site was touted as a location that had environmental conditions conducive both to all-year flying operations and to the maintenance and storage of aircraft and equipment. Additionally, it had established transportation networks, a solid labor pool, and the support of the local community. This recommendation would ultimately culminate in the pictured groundbreaking of “Hill Field” on January 12, 1940.

7 Jul 1973 (Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Dir.)

Today in 1973, 50 years ago this year, the F-15B had its first flight. Originally designated the TF-15A, this aircraft was intended to serve as a two-seat training aircraft for pilots learning to fly the F-15A Eagle. Indeed, aside from a larger cockpit and a second seat, the F-15B was otherwise largely configured as a F-15A (with some combat systems removed and with a decreased fuel capacity to allow for the second seat, of course). The first F-15 to enter the Air Force inventory of any kind was an F-15B, which was delivered to the 555th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron at Luke AFB, Arizona, in November 1974. The first F-15A Eagle set for a combat squadron was later delivered in January 1976. A versatile and highly-maneuverable aircraft designed for air-to-air superiority, the F-15 has been highly successful across its service career, and remains in service today.

9 Jul 1984 (Eglin AFB/Armament Dir.)

On this date, the Armament Division awarded AVCO Systems Division (a subsidiary of Textron) the contract to develop the 1,000-pound CBU-97 Sensor-Fuzed Weapon (SFW). In time, this would become the first wide-area cluster munition with “smart bomb” properties (each projectile can independently detect targets). It is capable of destroying multiple armored adversaries on a single pass. Patents for the technologies that would become the SFW date back to 1979, but even after the contract was awarded the first munitions would not actually see production until the early 1990s (with initial operational test and evaluation, or IOT&E, phase 1 successfully completed in Dec 1991). SFWs were first used in combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003). The SFW is much more effective than earlier, Vietnam-era cluster munitions, which were unguided and so had a smaller chance of hitting their intended targets.

105 Years Ago in AFLCMC History: Our First IG Report (8 Jul 1918)

On 8 July 1918, Maj C.S. Hamilton, from the Inspector General (IG) of the Army in Washington, released the first IG report on AFLCMC’s original predecessor—the Airplane Engineering Department (AED) at McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio. The results reflected both a lack of emphasis on traditional military regulations and confusion
over the operations of this unique organization. In just over a year, the AED had grown from three officers and a few draftsmen using borrowed offices in Washington, DC, to about 1200 military and civilian personnel at a brand-new, specialized experimental engineering station in Ohio. The rapid growth reflected their responsibility: managing and executing the technology development, testing, and acquisition of thousands of aircraft to fight in World War I. It also resulted in a more “mission focused” organization than in a “by the book” military unit. Several factors contributed.

The original commander, Col Virginius Clark was a career military officer whose best attribute was his engineering acumen, while his organizational skills, military bearing, and personal life were somewhat lax. His replacement for the entirety of 1918 was the able executive, Col Jesse Vincent. He and most of his senior staff
were all corporate men who had joined the Army in the summer of 1917 expressly to run the aircraft production program and who were immediately made senior officers, but lacked any formal military training or experience. In fact, McCook had just 20 officers total. Major Hamilton inspected McCook Field on July 2nd for the first time and noted five “irregularities and deficiencies,” four of which concerned uniforms. Officers had incorrectly placed ornaments on their collars, had the wrong shade service hats, and were observed out of uniform inappropriately. The enlisted fared better, with the sole complaint being that some wore leather trouser belts instead of the regulation canvas. The only other item was that the “grounds in the vicinity of Mess Hall and Barracks not thoroughly policed.”

However, Col Vincent disagreed with the operational findings, such as underworked clerks/stenographers and too many staff cars. He insisted these assistants were highly-trained for their technical subject matter and their services in great demand. Likewise, the cars were necessary for the senior staff to commute from their offices in downtown Dayton across the river to McCook Field. In an odd twist, Vincent was (in civilian life) the chief engineer for Packard Automobiles, yet he didn’t drive the AED’s Packard. Instead, he used a Nordyke-Marmon, despite the fact that Howard Marmon, one of that company’s owners, was McCook’s head of engineering. Marmon drove a Hudson—a company for which Vincent had also been chief engineer.

The most pressing finding was the supply and use of the 219 soldiers from the 807th Aero Repair Squadron living at McCook and serving as guards. Both Maj Hamilton and Col Vincent agreed that this role was entirely unnecessary for these trained airplane mechanics. Frustrated, Vincent replied that he had requested through official channels that they be reassigned to repair work but had been rebuffed, though they were still informally assisting with the on-site technical work.